Deciding what you want people to call you is one of the most personal decisions you can make. You may have a surname that is difficult to pronounce and want to shorten it to make it easier to use, or you might have the same name as a famous or notorious person with whom you don’t want to be associated. Your state law determines the statutory declarations you need to make to legally change your name.
The exact process for changing your name varies depending on local regulations in the state and county – or parish, in Louisiana – where you live. Generally speaking, the process involves filing a petition for a name change with your local court, publishing a notice of your intent to change your name, attending a hearing where a judge signs an order changing your name and notifying others that you have changed your name.
You must provide information about yourself when you petition the court for a change of name. The information may vary from one jurisdiction to another, but in general, the court wants to know your existing name, your date of birth, where you live and why you want to change your name. If you are applying for a name change on behalf of a minor child, you must also provide the names and addresses of the child’s parents. Finally, you must disclose whether you are required to register as a sex offender under state or federal law.
Providing the Reason
The name change forms for each state vary in the amount of detail they require you to provide about the reason for your name change. The state of California, for instance, merely asks you to explain why you want to change your name. By contrast, the state of Utah also requires you to declare that you are not presently involved in any court actions, that you are not on probation or parole, that you are not changing your name to try to avoid creditors and that changing your name will not affect another person’s rights. Another state might simply require you to declare that you are not changing your name for the purpose of committing fraud.
In addition to the declarations you make in your petition for name change, before you obtain a final order changing your name, you must also declare that you published a notice of your name change as required by the law in your jurisdiction. For example, your jurisdiction may require that you place a classified ad in the “legal notices” section of a local newspaper or that you post a notice of your name change on a public bulletin board at the courthouse. This publication puts others on notice that you are changing your name and gives them an opportunity to appear at your name-change hearing and object to your petition.